The highlight of the session parts of GTA were definitely the first morning and the second afternoon of the event. After talking a bit about moonshot thinking, we spent the first morning doing some design thinking around problems we faced at our sites or districts. We ranked these problems and chose areas to focus on. We were placed into common groups with folks with similar issues. These groups chatted about these problems and mapped some stumbling blocks to them using hexagonal thinking, which was a really neat process.
Imagine flying up to Northern California to get picked up by some guy you've never met, stay at his apartment, and have him drive you around to two conferences. My wife was freaked out. I was trusting that the tweets matched the man. Since that weekend, it has been confirmed that Karl is one of the best people I know, putting himself out there for anyone. The best part of the Google Teacher Academy during the days, from Karl (read the rest of his reflection on his blog):
The sessions were based around advanced Google tools and tips from our lead learners. The lead learners were an incredible group who had a lot to offer. In fact, I attended some of their sessions at the aforementioned conferences, making some of the sessions a repeat of something I’d already done. But that right there is a personal problem. Every one of the sessions had good things to offer and got us exposed to each of the lead learners and their strengths. I could honestly listen to Chris Aviles talk all day about storytelling and data...
Victoria Olson, Karl LS, Rachel Diephouse (I switched my name for hers), and Matt Vaudrey made the Google Teacher Academy experience awesome for me. These four educators challenged me, inspired me, and made me laugh over and over again this week.
However, what's most beautiful to me is that they're not just my GTA friends. These are the people who have helped me become the educator that I am today and that will continue to push me to be better in the future. I have the honor of rubbing elbows with these people on a monthly basis. They're at the conferences I attend. They're at Brew CUEs with me. They're interacting with me on Twitter. These are my people.
GTA was like EdTech College; many of us came from schools and districts (evencounties) where we were the smartest kid in class. For two days, the big fish left their small ponds and dropped into a wading pool…
No, that’s not the analogy I want…
Tasty appetizers from several menus are spread on one table…
Eh, that’s closer…
A bunch of CEOs start a business. Working together and sharing ideas with each other, two days would be woefully insufficient to drink up all the great stories and experiences and knowledge in one room.
2) What personal connections did I make in the execution of this project that I can draw on in the future?
This is the most common and cliched reason educators give for participating in the GTA. However, cliches in my mind become cliches because they are the most absolute truths. Not only are the other newly appointed GCTs an unbelievably dedicated and inspiring group of educators who I learn from everyday, but the Lead Learners and organizers of the event made me feel empowered, welcome, and proud. These relationships will continue to enrich my social and professional life for the unforeseeable future, and I will tap into their collective knowledge to continue my growth as a professional.
Possibly the best coincidence, or maybe not, was sitting next to Rafranz Davis for two days. It become more and more apparent that we share many of the same passions and are trying to push education in the same direction. I am learning things on a regular basis from her twitter feed and blog posts, whether it is math, technology, or social/racial justice. Thank you, Rafranz, for the work that you do.
Finally, some words and reflection of my own. December 2nd and 3rd was worth every second and every penny that it took to get me there. I am grateful for a district that believes in me and the need for technology to enhance instruction, not drag instruction along behind it. Did the Academy go how I would've planned it? No, but rarely does an event so big appease everyone's expectations, especially 52 high-caliber educators. Would I do it again, knowing what I know now? YES.
Thank you to Google, to the entire CUE team, to the 51 educators who inspired me for the two days (and will continue to do so from this point forward), to the lead learners who spent their time preparing for something that must have been a stressful task of engaging this group, and to my wife for understanding that this is an experience that I just couldn't pass up.
Looking ahead, I am more than happy to help anyone out with their application, video, or mentality leading up to the application process for Google Teacher Academy. I believe in the process, believe in the people, and believe in the moonshot feeling that you leave with.
Oh yeah, and there were tools. But you can google those.